Data Doctors Tech Tips
Tech Tips for Non-Tech People
We give quick, one minute tech tips each weekday! Join us on a radio station near you as we talk tech. It's Tech Tips for Non-Tech People! You can post questions on Facebook anytime!
If you’re using a laptop as your primary computer, you’ve figured out that the battery life is amongst the most common irritations.
The more you use it, the faster the battery life diminishes because all batteries have a set number of charge cycles.
With this in mind, a tip that may help you extend the life of your battery is to simply remove it when you know you are going to be using the laptop while plugged-in for extended periods of time, like days or weeks.
It has a little to do with the excessive charging cycles but more to do with the heat that gets generated, which is a big killer of battery life.
The heat from the running laptop over long stretches can have an impact as well as the heat generated by the battery impacting your computer.
An important thing to keep in mind on this tip is to never plug or unplug the laptop battery in while your device is running.
Make sure you always properly shutdown the laptop and make sure it isn't in sleep or hibernation mode.
Another thing to consider is making sure the laptop is plugged into a battery backup whenever you do remove the battery.
Cyber security experts have been warning for quite some time that our mobile devices, especially smartphones are becoming a most desirable target for hackers.
Since everyone loves discovering new apps, it's becoming the latest attack vector being exploited by cyber thieves.
Nothing emphasis the danger more than the discovery of at least eleven malicious iPhone apps that looked very legit and used in what are known as masque attacks.
The malicious apps appear to be popular ones like Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp or Twitter but they actually allow remote hackers to access and monitor just about everything on your device without you knowing.
This type of threat is successful by tricking users into downloading what appears to be a popular app, so we've all got to pay very close attention to the where we are getting our apps.
The most likely ways you'll be presented the malicious downloads is through links on social media or via email, so be sure that you only get your apps from directly from the Apple App store.
Smart doorbells that make use of high-definition cameras and wifi have been around for a while and getting better, but it's important to do some homework before you spend several hundred dollars to get one.
The idea of having a video pop-up on your phone when anyone rings your doorbell is ab attractive one, but the signal strength of your wifi network is very important if you want them to work right.
Devices from the likes of Ring and Skybell have user complaints about the overall performance or reliability most often when it comes to the video.
If signal from your wifi access point is low or virtually non-existent by your door, you are not going to get the performance you're looking for from any of them.
You should also pay attention to those devices that need their own power source if you don't have an existing hard-wired doorbell.
The video quality will also be greatly washed out if your doorbell camera is pointing into the sun. Before buying anything, make sure you test the wifi signal strength using your smartphone where you plan to install it first.
It’s well known that maintenance is a vital part of keeping things properly functioning, whether it’s your vehicle, pool or physical fitness.
But when it comes to maintaining your computer, for some reason it hasn't ever hit the mainstream thought process.
Can you imagine how expensive owning your car would be if you never maintained anything in it?
From this point on, I’m hoping to help all the Windows users listening to take the first step in taking regular care of your computer by getting familiar with the Disk Cleanup utility.
Windows Disk Cleanup does what its name suggests! Not only will it free up valuable space, it will also help let your computer run a little faster.
You can locate the built-in tool by going to Programs then to Accessories and then System Tools.
If you’ve never done this before or it has been a while, be patient as it will likely it take a little time for the program to gather all the unnecessary files.
I’d highly suggest that you start doing this at least once a month!
Another new type of pop-up security scam is catching a lot of people off guard because of their authentic looking warning screens.
You will get a pop-up screen that tries to lock down your browser, then warn you that you have been massively infected and that you should call the toll free number posted immediately so a security expert can assist you.
Mac users should know that this type of scam is not limited to Windows, as Mac versions of the scam are also being planted around the Internet.
The scam-artists encode malicious links and post them via hijacked social media accounts, compromised email accounts and as spam in the comments section of many popular websites.
Here’s something to remember; none of the legitimate Internet security companies will ever post any toll-free numbers as your first course of action, because none of them want you to ever call them if they can avoid it.
Solid security programs should be able to block known attacks and malicious websites and limit infection detection to scheduled or manual scanning processes.
None of them will ever pop-up their toll-free number so now you know it’s always a huge red flag.
Any parent of an infant may be asking themselves: 'to iPad, or not to iPad, that is THE question'.
Many older parents have anecdotal advice for newer parents as it pertains to when and where to introduce tech, but personal biases aren't the best lessons to learn.
If you're looking for something a little more data driven, the American Academy of Pediatricians says that iPads are OK for young children.
In their opinion, television, smartphones and tablets are just fine for infants and small children but with a lot of caveats.
They continue to recommend against screen time for children under the age of 2 and limiting time for children over 2 to 2 hours. These recommendations have been updated to include the impact of the digital age that surrounds our kids.
Knowing the difference between passive media like TV and interactive media like apps on mobile devices and when to introduce them to your child is a very keen parenting skill these days.
The complete overview for anyone raising a digital native is posted at DataDoctors.com/radio
Gathering with a group to discuss ideas often results in lots of good info on a whiteboard or chalkboard which then requires someone in the group to take down separate notes afterwards.
If you ever become the one that ends up having to spend the time taking down the whiteboard notes after a meeting, there’s actually an app for that!
It’s called Office Lens and it’ll save you a ton of time.
This Microsoft app makes it super easy to snap a picture of any document, whiteboard or chalkboard and then turn it into a PDF, Word document or Powerpoint deck.
Not only does it digitize all your notes it will fix the distortion if you had to shoot it from an angle.
Every time you capture notes from an off angle, you’ll love how well this app gets it done.
Once you have the image, the app lets you save and share it to various Microsoft platforms that include OneNote and OneDrive or you can simply save it as a document or picture.
Another great use of the app is to capture and organize business cards.
The Office Lens app is free & available for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone users.
Social networks are such an integral part of our lives that when a loved one passes away, one of the first places we’ll likely go is Facebook.
The popularity of the network allows us to connect with grieving friends and family while allowing others to post memories of the departed.
But if you happen to be part of the family of the deceased that didn’t have the username and password for their page, Facebook eventually converts it to a memorialized account which basically freezes it in time.
But Facebook has made it possible for a family member to become a sort of executor of your account with a feature called Legacy Contact.
Instead of having no way to update your page or keep it going, anyone who assigns a legacy contact will pass on control in the event something happen.
It’s easy to set it up by going to the Settings menu, clicking on the Security tab and then on the option labeled Legacy Contact.
I know it isn’t something we like to think about, but if you take a minute to pick a Legacy Contact, your family and friends will appreciate it!
In all my years of assisting people with their technology, one very consistent issue has existed; every user knows that they should back up their personal data, but they just never get around to doing it.
If you are one of those that have been meaning to get this critical task done, but can’t seem to get around to making it happen, here’s another reason you should.
The growing threat of ransomware, which allows sophisticated hackers to gain access to your computer and hold your data hostage, including any backup drive that’s connected is getting worse.
The current versions are able to spread themselves in ways we have never seen before.
If you become a victim of ransomware and don’t have an off-site backup, your choices will be to either lose everything or pay hundred or thousands of dollars to get your critical files back.
Online backup services such as Carbonite are among the best ways to sidestep having to pay the ransom, because it isn’t directly connected to your computer when you are attacked.
If you don’t have a secure backup in place, consider the your wakeup call!
If you are like most drinkers of beer or wine, you probably stick to bottles that you know, especially if you're unadventurous.
Even the adventurous crowd has a tough time picking something new from a wall of options that they don't recognize.
If you're looking for help, checkout an app called NextGlass.
NextGlass offers to combine science and technology to help predict how much you might like that "next bottle" because of what you've told it you already liked.
After you create your own taste profile, you can scan bottle labels to get a predictive score whenever you’re looking for something new to try.
They also offer a Glass Match feature which shows you beer and wine that tastes similar to your existing favorites.
The app can also tell you what is inside the bottle, like sugar content, calories and alcohol levels.
Anyone looking for help to figure out what to try next, should give the Next Glass app a try. It's like having a personal expert that knows your taste hiding in your smartphone.
The free app is available for Android and iPhone users; Cheers!
Chances are pretty high that you'll acquire some type of electronic gadget this holiday season, which often means that you'll have older tech that you no longer need.
Remember, anything that has a power button, plugs into the wall or uses rechargeable batteries contains toxic electronic waste, so don’t ever throw your old electronics in the trash.
First, check with local charities to see if they have a program to reuse your old tech. Even though you may not be able to use it anymore doesn’t mean that someone else can't.
If it turns out to be too old, then recycling it responsibly through a proper e-waste recycling program is your best bet.
All your electronic gadgets contain toxins like arsenic, lead, mercury and a long list of other chemicals that will wreak havoc on our landfills and groundwater if you just toss it in the trash.
As a nation, 75% of the over 3-million tons of e-waste we generate is still being thrown in trash cans, which end up in our landfills because there's so little awareness of the problem.
Please be sure to do you part and properly dispose of all your electronics and educate your friends so they do the same!
No matter how much you love technology, IMHO nothing compares to curling up to a good book on a porch swing on a lazy afternoon.
No matter what topics you prefer; business, self-help, history, science or fiction, learning about great books from others is always a good way to make decisions.
While Amazon can be a great at recommending new books based on what you've already read, a website called GoodReads.com offers another way to discover new books.
Not only do you get great suggestions because of what you’ve read, you can also connect with your bookworm friends to learn what they don’t like and more importantly what they do like.
It’s kind of like a virtual library that makes discovering great books much easier than wandering the aisles of a traditional bookstore.
The site lets you create queues of the books you’ve read, the ones you’re currently reading and the an book that you want to read.
Goodreads works really well if you can get a group of avid readers to join in as sort of a virtual but private book club.
Hardcore bookworms you can also start or join discussion groups that can be private or public.
Learn more at https://GoodReads.com
A friend recently asked me if I knew of any apps that allowed him to record phone conversations while using his Android smartphone.
He primarily wanted to record calls for training purposes he said.
My first piece of advice was to be sure he didn’t violate any wiretapping laws because they varied from state to state.
The best way to make sure you’re not violating any laws is to notify everyone on the calls that it is being recorded as he began.
After I tested a handful of apps out, I found an app called Call Recorder that was free and did the job quite well.
Once it was installed, a small red dot appeared in the upper left-hand corner whenever the phone was making or receiving a call.
Whenever you want to record a call, you just tap the red dot to start and then again when you are done.
The app will log the caller ID, date, time and duration of the call automatically and then allows you to share the file in various ways.
Call Recorder from Boldbeast can be downloaded from the Google Play store.
Anyone with a security webcam setup in the home or business, will want to pay particular attention to today’s tip.
There are numerous websites that show live feeds from thousand of compromised webcams from around the world mad possible by a simple but common error made by the webcam’s owners.
They didn't change the default password on the device.
Not only do these sites show the brand as well as the default username, password and live stream of the web cameras, they often include the approximate location too.
Most of these sites claim that they're doing this to educate the public on this common mistake.
You should know that every hacker knows the default username and password for any device you own in your home or business, so leaving them at the default increases your chances of being compromised.
Keep in mind, any device that you can access from outside your home is potentially accessible by unauthorized users especially when you make easy for them.
If you don’t have a clue which devices may be at risk or how to make the changes to the settings, get some help. It’s just too important to ignore this one.
When we get a new computer during the holidays, the first step is getting all your programs and utilities installed which can take quite a bit of time.
Installing various browsers, web tools, file managers,
productivity tools, media players and an endless list of utilities are just the beginning of what it takes to get your computer setup.
You probably won’t realize how many steps it takes to get your new computer fully functional until you go through this normally arduous process.
The next time you’re faced with this common situation, there’s a much faster solution for both Mac and Windows users.
In the past, we have told Windows users that a website called NiNite (that’s N I N I T E.com) allows you to quickly generate one neat little automatic package from everything you need.
For those setting up a brand new Mac, I suggest you checkout GetMacApps.com to do the same thing.
If you’re the IT person at a business, both of these sites can be a huge time saver when trying to get all your computers setup exactly the same way.
http://getmacapps.com and http://ninite.com
If you have young children or grandchildren that you spend time with at bedtime, this tip is for you!
Wouldn’t it be when bedtime story hour came around that you could read a story that stars your child?
Well, a website called Storybots allows you to do just that by customizing children’s stories starring your child with just a few mouse clicks.
You start by uploading a picture of your child to generate their character, then pick one of the many books that cover themes that any child would love and they become the star of the bedtime story.
There is even an option to create 'Starring You Videos’ which are learning videos and activity sheets to extend the fun.
The apps can be used on your computer via the web or on an iPhone or iPad, which makes it perfect for bedtime!
Storybots is a kid safe ad-free resource with no in-app purchases and no unsafe links on any of their tools.
The basic resources are free, but if you want unlimited access to all that they offer, you can become a member for $3 to $5 a month at http://StoryBots.com
In both business and personal situatuions, you may find yourself in need of some basic graphic design work, but it isn't important enough to hire a professional.
The next time this happens whether you are design challenged or just don’t have the software that can get it done, check out a free web tool called Canva...spelled like canvas without the s.
Canva is a really simple, template driven tool that is also web-based, so there's no need to install anything in order to get started.
Should you need anything from a flyer to a poster, business card, graphic images for your website or blog, properly formatted Facebook Cover images or any of the many social media related graphics, Canva is about as easy as it gets.
Just select a design style, then an associated template and get to work modifying the text to fit your needs.
If you need images, you can use your own or purchase professional images from their huge library for as little as a dollar each.
It is so easy to learn, easy to use, cheap and it produces professional looking results in minutes...it’s a design challenged persons dream.
So if you don't have the vision, money, software, skills or patience necessary to create graphics, checkout Canva.com...that’s C A N V A.com
It has always been very risky to plug a USB drive into your computer if you don’t know anything about it, but it’s now downright dangerous.
Strange USB drives have always had the potential of spreading malware and viruses but general speaking, an updated security program should detect and block any threats.
But a recent exploit demonstrated at the annual Black Hat Security Conference showed a way for hackers to modify the firmware on USB devices that allows malware to hide.
This type of exploit is undetectable by general security programs and it’s virtually un-patchable, meaning there is no easy way to fix the design flaw that allows this to be used.
With this in mind, it is imperative that you avoid using any USB drive that you don’t own and you should never plug in a USB drive that someone else may have lost.
If you take a minute to think like a hacker, dropping infected USB drives around college campuses or high target businesses can make it easy to gain access inside secured systems.
The fact that this undetectable exploit exists, requires all of us to be very suspicious of any USB drive, especially if it’s origins are unknown.
Businesses should especially be aware and warn their employees about strange USB drive usage.
We’ve all had to deal with flight delays, cancellations and over bookings when traveling by air.
When they happen, it can completely ruin your day; make you very late for an important gathering or worse yet, miss something altogether.
If you’re lucky, you could end up with a simple meal voucher or a free drink, but that is because the companies that fly you around know that you are most likely clueless about your actual rights.
This most common occurrence caused a number of frequent international travelers to get together and take action by creating a service called AirHelp.
AirHelp is both a website and an app that’s designed to quickly act as your flight advocate when things go wrong.
It takes just three minutes for the system to check if you’re eligible for some form of compensation, so you are more informed before making a decision to accept something from the gate agents.
Getting financially compensated won’t happen immediately, but if the AirHelp service can get you compensation, they'll keep 25% to pay for the leg work the system does on your behalf.
Even if your nightmare flight happened within the last three years and you weren't compensated, you may still have eligible for compensation, especially you were on an international flight.
Learn more at http://GetAirHelp.com
Ever wonder how some people on social media or email are able to post those weird series of characters in their messages?
There is nothing on your keyboard that allows you to generate the characters but if you hold down the Alt key and tap on some of the numbers, you’ll start to see how they’re doing it.
For example, holding down the ‘Alt’ key and the number 2 will generate the classic trademark symbol.
There are actually 255 various combinations that you can use, but trying to commit to memory which keys correspond to which number combination is a bit of a stretch.
There are many online resources that have charted each character's number keyboard combo, but there’s a much easier way to make use of special characters.
Just go to this site: CopyPasteCharacter.com and you’ll see all of the special characters and then all you’ll need to do is click on any of them to copy them.
Then you can simply paste them into a Facebook or Twitter post or into an e-mail message or into any just about any program that allows characters.
They even offer their iPhone if you want to use it on the go at http://copypastecharacter.com
All of the major cellular carriers are engaged in a heated battle to try to get your business with some really attractive offers these days.
But when it comes to cell service, a good deal doesn’t mean much if the quality of the service in your specific areas is weak, so before you make the decision to hop from one provider to another, you need to do some homework.
A useful resource that will allow you to review how Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint perform in your specific area is posted at http://rootmetrics.com.
You can start with your city to get an overall rating of the performance that includes reliability and speed when it comes to data, call and text so you can evaluate the strengths of each network where you live.
One of the coolest features of Rootmetrics.com is in the CoverageMap section. You can bring up a detailed map of where call quality is solid or spotty, where data speeds are fast or slow and whether you can get true 4G LTE service where you need it the most.
They also have a mobile app that will allow you to generate reports of your own as you travel around and add the findings to their database.
I’ve posted the links to the useful Rootmetrics resources at DataDoctors.com/radio
Find your city reports: http://www.rootmetrics.com/us/rsr/usa-metros?z=united-states
Explore the Coverage Map: http://webcoveragemap.rootmetrics.com/us
Mobile apps: http://www.rootmetrics.com/us/products/coveragemap-mobile-app